I woke up around 3 a.m. last Saturday and couldn’t go back to sleep. I suddenly got itchy feet and wondered where I could go. I opened Google Maps and ran my finger over it to see which direction felt good. I have my own quirks when it comes to traveling, and being spontaneous is only one of them. It may sound strange to you, but some geographical directions make me feel good or bad, depending on my mood.
I felt like going west that day, preferably to an island. Shodoshima popped into my head, and I let my feelings run the show after that. No sooner had I thought about going to Shodoshima did I find myself getting ready for the trip. “Rarely do my feelings disappoint me anyway,” I muttered on the ferry from Okayama to Shodoshima.
Shodoshima is the second-largest island in the Seto Inland Sea—and one of the most famous islands in Japan. With its olive groves, calm sea, and peaceful atmosphere, Shodoshima reminds me of the Aegean Sea. The only part of the island that looks like Japan is the narrow roads surrounding the abandoned or dilapidated houses and advertisements from the Showa era.
I was lethargic once the ferry arrived at Obe Port due to a lack of caffeine and sleep. I will be honest; I thought about giving up on the trip and returning home with the next ferry after realizing Shodoshima was way too big to discover without a car. Because I don’t drive or cycle, I had to depend on public buses that were reliable but infrequent.
But I didn’t turn back. As the famous Turkish poet Orhan Veli once said, “This lovely weather has brought on my ruin.” The arresting beauty of the island and the lovely blue sky made me stay there all day. As one would expect from the weather, it did not stay the same. While riding the bus, the sky began to turn gray, giving me quite a scare.
Luckily it didn’t rain, and I reached Angel Road at the same time this mysterious sandy road appeared. I did not walk on it myself, but I went up a hill to watch the couples, the strong ones piggybacking their partners while crossing it. According to the legend, if you cross this road holding your special someone’s hand, your wish will be granted by an angel. No wonder it’s so popular with couples!
I was content with watching the people passing Angel Road and the mountains surrounding the island. I took in the maple trees that turned red with the arrival of the last week of November and felt the last warm days of the year in my bones. I was too immersed in the scenery to notice, but when I shifted my gaze, the tides were rising, and the road was gone!
Shodoshima Olive Park and Olive Beach
I walked to Meiro no Machi (迷路のまち) from Angel Road and spent an hour wandering through its streets. I felt a pang of sadness in my heart when I realized it was empty, even on a busy weekend. I wish such a lovely neighborhood had more visitors, but not every wish comes true. The strait, which the authorities claim to be the narrowest in the world, didn’t attract any interest, either.
I went to a burger shop for lunch, and to my surprise, the owner was a friendly Australian. He said he grew up with Middle Eastern neighbors who fed him delicious foods. He had fond memories of them and his hometown’s cuisine. Thanks to him, I learned that the neighborhood is usually busier, but the adults weren’t around that day because of a school event. Phew!
After that pleasant encounter, I headed to my final destination, Shodoshima Olive Park. This place confirmed that I had to trust my instincts more often and never give up before starting! Shodoshima Olive Park is on a hill that faces the Seto Inland Sea and the other coasts of the island. Since my mother’s side is from the Mediterranean, I love olive oil and olives, and I have a weakness for olive trees. Visiting this park brought back many childhood memories.
There was a Greek windmill, one of the settings for the famous Ghibli animation “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” Most people were busy trying to take photos straddling brooms in front of the windmill. I enjoyed a delicious plate of seasonal pasta with olive oil and bread at a nearby restaurant and took a long walk among the olive trees. It was a tranquil afternoon—the kind that you don’t want to end.
As I like to do at the end of my trips, I went to a nearby beach before the sun disappeared behind the mountains. I sat on Olive Beach and gazed at the sea while sipping a delicious cup of drip coffee at a lovely coffee shop. The silence cradled me while the sun made a grand exit. And I thought, “Whatever is troubling me now can wait until tomorrow. Today is mine.”
Are there any places that you are grateful to have visited, even if it made you nervous at first?
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